Outrage as Orthodox Service Calls Women to Torah

Community in Shoham starts having female congregants read from Torah, as rabbis and locals note 'this opposes Jewish law.'

Nir Har-Zahav, Ari Yashar ,

Torah scroll (illustration)
Torah scroll (illustration)
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

An Orthodox Jewish minyan (prayer quorum of ten men) in Shoham, located just east of Ben Gurion International Airport, has raised controversy by allowing women to be called to and read from the Torah starting this Shabbat.

According to the report in Israel Hayom, the minyan is named Nachat Ruach and meets in a hall at the city's retirement home, where women have taken an active part in the prayer service. The service has maintained a mechitza partition between male and female worshippers.

It has now been decided that women congregants will also be called to the Torah and read from it, despite Jewish tradition that opposes such practice for several reasons.

Among a number of other reasons, women reciting the blessings over the Torah reading directly contravenes Jewish law, which mandates that such blessings can only be made by someone fulfilling a Torah obligation; since women are exempt from the time-bound obligation of reading from the Torah, the blessings are recited in vain which is strictly forbidden.

Chen, one of those opposing the congregation's decision, said "it goes against Halakha (Jewish law), can create an erosion (of Jewish practice) and is troubling. This isn't religious Zionism."

Likewise the city's chief rabbi, Rabbi David Stav, said "it's against Halakha." Rabbi Stav also heads the Tzohar rabbinical institute.

One of the organizers of the minyan defending the move, however saying: "it's a loaded issue, like every issue related to women in Judaism. ...We are doing everything according to Halakha...today religious women are the CEOs of banks and companies, and only in the synagogue they have no place. ...With us they find their place more."

Jewish traditionalists have argued that the "place" of women in the synagogue is not lacking, even with the fact that it isn't required to complete a minyan and doesn't include a formal role in the service.